Education

Wende Williams Earns Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award

Charleston (March 6, 2003) – Wende Williams became a teacher at age 30, after working as a secretary for the assistant superintendent. “I had been privileged to work with curriculum, parents and administrators for six years,” she says. However, Williams quickly determined she wanted to help the educational system in the trenches – so she became a teacher.

“I knew I had to get down into the trenches. I needed to listen and to learn from teenagers as well as their parents as to why the value of a good education is lower on the list of priorities for many,” she adds. “I realized fairly quickly that in order for education to become a top priority in a student’s life, they needed to be engaged in that process as leaders and as facilitators; to take ownership of their learning,” she says. “This interaction is what motivates me to continue teaching.”

So Williams remains in the trenches, and she’s flourishing there, too. She is one of only 10 West Virginia teachers to receive a 2003 Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award. Steven F. Leer, Arch Coal president and chief executive officer, made the announcement, accompanied by West Virginia Governor Bob Wise; Secretary of Education and Arts Kay Goodwin; Deputy State Schools Superintendent Dr. Steven Paine; and WVEA President Tom Lange, at a presentation ceremony at the state capitol.

“This year’s ‘class’ of recipients is proof that West Virginia is blessed with many excellent teachers,” says Leer. “We truly believe excellent teachers are the cornerstone of our society and economic vitality. These recipients have experience, expertise and a passion for learning, and they pass it on to their students every day.”

“Mrs. Williams is a woman of great integrity and impeccable morals,” notes a colleague, Ron Lathey, who will also receive a 2003 Arch Teacher Achievement Award. “Her influence has been felt outside the classroom as well as in. … She has written two books that are currently being handled by the Cambridge Literary Associates in Boston, Mass.. Mrs. Williams is the kind of teacher that every student would be fortunate to have.”

Williams teaches 11th-grade English courses at Williamstown High School. “The single most important thing I can do for my students is to instill my trust in them as individuals; to listen, nurture and encourage them with consistency to find their own voice and to learn how to express it,” she says.

Williams earned bachelor’s degrees at West Virginia Wesleyan, Buckhannon; and Glenville State College. Her master’s is from West Virginia University at Morgantown, and she has received National Board Certification. She further serves her community through involvement in a variety of church, civic and education-related initiatives, including a series of workshops she held in nursing homes, school cafeterias, hospitals and at a prison.

In addition to recognition, recipients receive a $2,500 unrestricted cash prize, a distinctive glass trophy and a framed certificate. The West Virginia Foundation for the Improvement of Education is making a $1,000 award to each recipient’s school for use with at-risk students. The Arch Coal teacher recognition program features public nomination and peer selection.

Arch Coal is supported by the West Virginia Department of Education, the West Virginia Education Association and Speedway in program promotion. Arch Coal’s Teacher Achievement Awards is one of the longest running, privately sponsored teacher recognition programs in the state.

Arch Coal is the nation’s second largest coal producer and a supplier of clean-burning, low-sulfur coal exclusively. Approximately 2,000 people are employed at Arch’s operations in West Virginia. The company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: ACI) and maintains its corporate headquarters in St. Louis.